Baby Tamia: Catching up With Girl Who Changed Adoption in Illinois

April 4, 2011  |  

(Chicago Sun Times) — Watching this sunny 6-year-old romp with her dog, it’s difficult to envision her at the center of a dark story that dominated headlines for weeks.  “Baby Tamia” — as she became known — is now a bright, chatty, affectionate, 40-pound ball of energy. The peaceful domesticity unfolding at her Hyde Park home is light-years from the noisy custody battle that began in December 2004, when her mother, while in the grip of bipolar disorder and post-partum depression, put the 3-month-old up for adoption.  Carmen McDonald, then 20, traveled alone to Utah, returning without the baby but with a $600 check from an agency she found in a newspaper advertisement. Carmen’s mother, Maria McDonald Dorden, relentlessly pursued her granddaughter and sued to get Tamia from the adoptive parents.  When it was over, Tamia was reunited with her family. The case spurred legislation in Illinois, providing sweeping protections for birth parents and establishing the state as a model for adoption reform.

“This was so much bigger than just Tamia,” said Dorden, 50. “We didn’t know how much we would change things when we started out. … We just wanted our baby back.”  Today, Tamia is a kindergartener at Ray School and is seemingly unscathed by her turbulent beginnings. She lives with her grandparents, who are officially her guardians and whom she calls Mommy and Daddy. Her mother is inPennsylvania, in treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, the family said. Tamia is unaware that her case generated hundreds of newspaper stories, TV reports and blog entries; that she amassed a 222-page case file with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; or that for years after being thrust into the limelight, strangers would call her grandmother a hero and plead for help in retrieving their own lost babies.

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